Thursday, February 14, 2008

McCain's "Platitudes" on health care

The other night McCain said:

To encourage a country with only rhetoric rather than sound and proven ideas that trust in the strength and courage of free people is not a promise of hope. It is a platitude.
So I thought I'd mosey over to the McCain website to see his "sound and proven ideas" on healthcare reform. What I found instead is what you might call a series of trite and banal other words "platitudes".

Take a load of some of these bullet points taken from the website:

  • While we reform the system and maintain quality, we can and must provide access to health care for all our citizens - whether temporarily or chronically uninsured, whether living in rural areas with limited services, or whether residing in inner cities where access to physicians is often limited.
  • Promote competition throughout the health care system - between providers and among alternative treatments.
  • Promote rapid deployment of 21st century information systems.
  • Insurance should be innovative, moving from job to home, job to job, and providing multi-year coverage.
  • We must do more to take care of ourselves to prevent chronic diseases when possible, and do more to adhere to treatment after we are diagnosed with an illness.

So is McCain planning on actually proposing a way to actually cover "all of our citizens" with "innovative" insurance using "21st century technology"?

About the only actual detail provided was the following:

Reform the tax code to eliminate the bias toward employer-sponsored health insurance, and provide all individuals with a $2,500 tax credit ($5,000 for families) to increase incentives for insurance coverage. Individuals owning innovative multi-year policies that cost less than the full credit can deposit remainder in expanded health savings accounts.
Compare this to Obama's plan on health care which is a lengthy and detailed policy proposal .

Just as an example, let's look at how each candidate addresses the issue of chronic disease. Rather than McCain's platitude about how "we must do more to take care of ourselves to prevent chronic disease", Obama says the following:

  • Support disease management programs. Seventy five percent of total health care dollars are spent on patients with one or more chronic conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure. Obama will require that providers that participate in the new public plan, Medicare or the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program (FEHBP) utilize proven disease management programs. This will improve quality of care, give doctors better information and lower costs.
  • Coordinate and integrate care. Over 133 million Americans have at least one chronic disease and these chronic conditions cost a staggering $1.7 trillion yearly. Obama will support implementation of programs and encourage team care that will improve coordination and integration of care of those with chronic conditions.
  • Require full transparency about quality and costs. Obama will require hospitals and providers to collect and publicly report measures of health care costs and quality, including data on preventable medical errors, nurse staffing ratios, hospital-acquired infections, and disparities in care. Health plans will also be required to disclose the percentage of premiums that go to patient care as opposed to administrative costs.
So which candidate really provides straight talk and which is a candidate of platitudes? I wonder if the media will correct the record the next time McCain tries out this line of attack. I won't hold my breath.


donpedro said...

The detail that McCain does provide sounds disastrous. "Reform the tax code to eliminate the bias toward employer-sponsored health insurance" is code for eliminating the existing tax break for employer-sponsored insurance. This would be a tax increase on employers that would cause some to dump coverage for their employees.

Meanwhile, the tax credit is far below the costs of insurance, which averaged $4000 for an individual and nearly $11000 in 2005. That's from this data:

Using these figures, and the average worker contributions from the same source, we can make a rough guess as to what would happen to the average worker/family's out-of-pocket health insurance payments with McCain's plan (net of the tax credit), assuming their employers terminated coverage and they had to get their own insurance.

For the average individual, health care costs would go from $610 to $1524 per year, while for the average family, costs would go from $2713 to $5880.

In other words, McCain's plan would increase taxes on businesses, drive many employers to terminate coverage, and more than double what people pay for insurance.

Sounds like a political winner to me.

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